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					                                                                                INFORMATION SHEET
                                                                                             No 15

What the Commission Report says on:


Importance of the Treaty. It is difficult to
                                                             150 kt, was signed by the USSR and the US in
overstate the importance of the Comprehensive
                                                             1976, although it entered into force only in 1990.
Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) as a crucial
building block for both non-proliferation and                Following the end of the Cold War, the USSR, U.S.
disarmament. It sets, in effect, a qualitative cap on        and UK announced a moratorium on nuclear
the capacity of both existing weapons possessors             testing, and the Conference on Disarmament in
and potential new ones to develop new nuclear                Geneva, after three years of negotiations from
weapons. In doing so, it complements and                     1994–96, finally produced an agreed CTBT text,
reinforces the role of the other crucial building            though could not reach consensus on its
block, the still-to-be-negotiated treaty cutting off         transmittal to the UN General Assembly. Australia
the production of fissile material for weapons               then took the initiative of introducing the treaty at
purposes, discussed in separate information sheet,           the General Assembly, which in September 1996
which sets a quantitative cap.                               overwhelmingly approved it, 158–3, with only
                                                             India, Bhutan and Libya voting against.
Before the treaty’s conclusion in 1996, the world
had conducted 2,044 nuclear explosions, roughly              In the twelve years since the treaty was opened for
one every nine days for 50 years. Although the               signature and ratification, 182 states have signed,
CTBT is still not yet in force (because it requires          of whom 150 have ratified. Of the nine ratifications
ratification from 44 specifically identified states –        still required to bring it into force, six are from
those with nuclear reactors at the time – nine of            countries which have signed (China, Egypt,
whom are still holding out), an informal moratorium          Indonesia, Iran, Israel and the U.S) and the
has been in effect since then, with the only tests           remaining three are from, to date, non-signatories
subsequently carried out being those by India and            (India, Pakistan and North Korea). The biggest
Pakistan in 1998, and by North Korea in 2006 and             setback to the treaty’s progress was the failure of
2009. But the moratorium remains fragile so long             the U.S. Senate in October 1999 to vote for
as the CTBT and its monitoring regime are not in             ratification, in a 48–51 party-line vote that failed to
formal legal effect, and bringing the treaty into            even secure a majority, let alone the necessary 67
force – with the U.S. needing to play a leadership           votes. Two substantive questions dominated the
role in this respect – must be a central short term          U.S. debate, then as now – whether there could be
priority.                                                    reliable detection of anyone breaking the treaty,
                                                             and whether the reliability of the U.S. arsenal could
The CTBT was a long time coming. First proposed
                                                             be guaranteed in the absence of periodic explosive
by Indian Prime Minister Nehru in 1954, against
                                                             testing. There is now much more information
the background of both the U.S. and USSR
                                                             available to answer those questions affirmatively,
carrying out hydrogen bomb tests which produced
                                                             as explained below, than was the case for the
major radioactive fallout and spurred worldwide
                                                             Clinton administration in 1999. But despite the
protest, negotiations led initially to the signature by
                                                             stated determination of President Obama in his
the U.S., the USSR and the UK of a Partial (or
                                                             April 2009 Prague speech to “immediately and
Limited) Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) in August 1963,
                                                             aggressively pursue U.S. ratification” of the treaty,
which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in
                                                             no-one doubts that this will still be a formidably
space and under water. A bilateral Threshold Test
                                                             difficult political task.
Ban Treaty (TTBT), which banned underground
nuclear weapons tests with a yield of more than


The full text of Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers, Report of the
International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Co-chairs Gareth Evans and
Yoriko Kawaguchi (November 2009), is available at

ICNND Secretariat: Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ACT 0221, Australia E T +61 2 6261 1111
    Tokyo Office: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tokyo 100-8919, Japan     E T +81 3 5501 8221
Of the remaining holdout states, there is strong basic      and infrasound. Those stations already send a
support for the treaty in China and Indonesia.              constant flow of information via satellite to a
Indonesia has announced it is proceeding with               sophisticated International Data Centre (IDC), which
ratification, and China’s ratification can certainly be     monitors and analyses the data, and makes it
expected if the U.S. moves. The Middle East trio of         available to states parties to the treaty, both in
Egypt, Iran and Israel are more problematic, with all       distilled and raw form. Many states, in turn, operate
supporting the treaty in principle, but each inclined to    national data centres (NDCs) to identify and further
make ratification conditional at least on that of the       analyse events that are of interest and possible
others (and with Egypt, for one, insisting that Israel      concern to them, using where applicable their own
has to first join the NPT): in breaking out of that         “national technical means”.
circle, much will clearly depend on how the current
                                                            The treaty provides for a state party to demand on-
Iran issue is resolved, but movement on a wider
                                                            site inspection (OSI) in the event of a suspicious
regional peace front may also be a precondition.
                                                            event being detected, and this is approved by 30 of
In South Asia, Pakistan is likely to take its cue from      the 51 members of the treaty’s Executive Council.
India, which – despite longstanding general support         This would be particularly useful in situations where
in principle – has never found the time ripe for            the evidence is ambiguous or incomplete, for
acceptance in practice, in the absence of significant       example with seismic but no radionuclide data. The
movement on disarmament by the original nuclear-            CTBTO has held field exercises – including a very
weapon states. India’s current position is that it will     major one at the former Soviet test site at
reconsider its position “if the world moves                 Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan in 2008 – to test the
categorically toward nuclear disarmament in a               technologies involved, including visual ground
credible time frame”, which – if international              inspection, over-flights, local seismic networks,
momentum continues to build in the way described            radionuclide monitoring and ground-penetrating
and recommended in this report – gives some hope            radar.
for a more accommodating stance. Whether North
                                                            Concerns were expressed from the outset, and
Korea will ever join the treaty clearly depends on the
                                                            particularly in the U.S. Senate debate in 1999, that
resolution of the current much broader dispute about
                                                            the proposed IMS would, for all its complex coverage,
its nuclear aspirations and behaviour.
                                                            be unable to detect low-yield underground tests: the
What is clear is that U.S. ratification would be a          originally anticipated detectable yield of around 1
circuit-breaker, having an immediate impact on the          kiloton was seen as too high. But innovations in
other CTBT hold-out states, and creating much new           monitoring technologies over the years mean that the
momentum in itself for the broader non-proliferation        system can detect an explosion of as little as 0.1 kt in
and disarmament agenda. What the non-nuclear                most parts of the world, and a 0.01 kt (i.e. equivalent
armed states have long argued for – along with those        to 10 tons of TNT) explosion in many critical regions.
like India and Pakistan reluctant to accept formal          Although the North Korean underground test in 2006
NPT and other treaty disciplines – is an evident            had an estimated yield of only around 0.5 kt, it was
sense of seriousness on the part of the inner core of       detected by 22 IMS seismic stations, including one
nuclear-weapon states that they really do want to           7,000 km away. And a gas from the test, xenon-133,
move toward a nuclear weapon free world, and U.S.           emitted in minute quantities from ground fissures,
ratification of the CTBT would provide real evidence        was detected twelve days later by a radionuclide
of that. It becomes extremely important, again, in this     station in Canada. The May 2009 North Korean test,
context, to fully answer the concerns which have            somewhat larger, was picked up by 61 seismic
been articulated about verification effectiveness and       stations. Very small nuclear explosions – smaller
ensuring stockpile reliability in the absence of testing:   than those now readily detectable, or which will be
doing so may not be a sufficient condition for              when the full complement of monitoring stations is in
garnering 67 Senate votes, but it is certainly a            place – are generally thought to be beyond the
necessary one.                                              capacity of any country without significant nuclear
Verification Concerns. Even though the CTBT is not          test experience, and to have in any event no strategic
in force, a great deal of progress has been made in
developing the complex verification infrastructure it       The CTBT presents a model for verification that is
provides for – the International Monitoring System          unlike other multilateral arms control instruments. It
(IMS). A functioning treaty organization, albeit with a     provides that responsibility for analysis of verification
transitional name, the “Preparatory Commission for          data, and judgments on compliance, lies with states
the     Comprehensive      Nuclear-Test-Ban      Treaty     parties. As preparations have been made for the
Organization”, is alive and well and living in Vienna,      treaty's entry into force, focus has naturally fallen on
with a budget of $111 million, and universally known        the development of the CTBTO-developed and
as the CTBTO. The IMS will involve, when complete           operated infrastructure just described – and clearly
– and it is close to 80 per cent ready now (with the        an effective and adequately resourced CTBTO will be
major remaining task being to improve coverage in           crucial in effectively implementing the treaty’s
the West Asia area) – 337 monitoring stations on            detection mechanisms. But individual states also
land and at sea worldwide, applying four distinct           have to establish their own national data centres, and
technologies: seismic, radionuclide, hydro-acoustic
there is much that many of them can do with their          It may be, however, that this dilemma can be
own information gathering resources. More attention        navigated. The 2009 report of the Congressional
needs to be paid to developing cooperative                 Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United
arrangements for the further integration of all these      States – headed by two former Defense secretaries
components.                                                of rather different outlooks on these matters, William
                                                           Perry and James Schlesinger – notes that there is a
Stockpile Reliability Concerns. While the CTBT is
                                                           third position available between the two ends of the
interpreted to allow for non-explosive (or sub-critical)
                                                           spectrum (“the pure remanufacturing of existing
tests, its ban on nuclear test explosions clearly
                                                           warheads with existing components at one end, and
significantly restricts, as it is meant to do, one major
                                                           complete redesign and new production of all system
avenue of scientific enquiry. The question –
                                                           components at the other”), viz. “various options to
particularly resonant in the U.S., not least its Senate
                                                           utilize existing components and design solutions
– is whether this inhibits the capacity to discover and
                                                           while mixing in new components and solutions as
resolve potential problems that might affect weapon
                                                           needed.” Given the success of life extension under
safety or reliability. The short answer is that it does
                                                           the SSP, it seems likely that judicious use of new
not, on the basis of analysis and experience so far in
                                                           components and design solutions, as they may
the U.S. and elsewhere, but the issue will no doubt
                                                           become necessary, could continue to give assurance
continue to generate lively debate. An authoritative
                                                           about safety and reliability over the long term, but
contribution to finally resolving the issue seems likely
                                                           minimize the risk of international reaction associated
to be made by the National Academies Committee on
                                                           with the development of a new design.
International Security and Arms Control (NAS-
CISAC) which has been tasked by the Obama                  The other nuclear-weapon states that have ratified
administration to review and update its earlier 2002       the CTBT have substantial stockpile stewardship
study, widely regarded as definitive.                      programs without significant concerns being
                                                           expressed about the constraints imposed by the
The last U.S. test was in 1992, and in the years since
                                                           treaty. The UK continues to conduct active research
it has relied on a combination of computer simulation,
                                                           and other activities though its Atomic Weapons
non-nuclear explosive testing and scientific research,
                                                           Establishment to maintain its nuclear weapons,
referred to as the Stockpile Stewardship Program
                                                           clearly premised on no nuclear testing, as does the
(SSP). This SSP has involved the re-manufacture of
                                                           French Atomic Energy Commission which test’s the
some weapons components to overcome effects of
                                                           country’s nuclear arsenal through simulations using
ageing, but has not altered the design of the nuclear
                                                           advanced equipment. Stockpile stewardship in
explosive package at the centre of a weapon. It has
                                                           Russia is managed through the state corporation
also investigated the longevity of current weapons,
                                                           Rosatom, which pools the institutions working on
and has usefully assuaged concerns about, for
                                                           military programs, the research institutes and nuclear
example, the deterioration over time of the plutonium
                                                           safety agencies.
core. Technical assessment of the success of the
SSP for extending the life of current weapons has          Recommendations:
been positive.
                                                               All states that have not already done so should
Whether life extension activities are sufficient for the
                                                               sign and ratify the CTBT unconditionally and
long term (twenty or more years in the future)
                                                               without delay. Pending entry into force, all states
continues to be questioned, however, by those who
                                                               should continue to refrain from nuclear testing.
see a wider role for the SSP, including the
development and deployment of new weapon                       All signatories should provide the necessary
designs. The concept of a Reliable Replacement                 financial, technical and political support for the
Warhead (RRW) – though shelved by the Obama                    continued development and operation of the
administration – continues to surface in debate as a           CTBTO, including completing the global
means of modernising U.S. nuclear weapons,                     coverage of its monitoring systems, facilitating
ensuring their long term reliability without nuclear           on-site inspection when warranted, and
explosive testing. Even if the CTBT were not directly          establishing effective national data centres and
breached, it would raise questions about its value –           information gathering systems.
and certainly undermine the presentational impact
worldwide of U.S. ratification of it – if new weapon                                   [Section 11, Recs 20, 21]
designs could be developed, especially ones with a
new military role.


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